Modern Belly Dance By Karayanni, Stavros Stavrou
References to dances of the East have appeared in Western sources at least since the beginning of the Christian era, yet what has become known and established as “belly dance” seems most closely connected to the World Expositions of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 was an event that formally introduced the danse du ventre or belly dance to American audiences and caused a stir in public morals, reformed concepts of the exotic, and revolutionized ideas about the relationship between movement and aesthetics (kinaesthesia). Even though renditions of the dance have varied greatly, there are choreographic elements that make belly dance immediately recognizable and even objectionable to some audiences: elaborate hip articulations, isolations that often layer the choreography and express the texture of the music, and movement on the vertical and horizontal axis without covering a large performance area. In terms of culture, the space it has occupied both in its “native” lands (predominantly but not exclusively, Egypt, Turkey, Lebanon) and in the West continues to be contested in choreographic, social, cultural, and even national politics of the twentieth century and beyond. Like many dance forms, belly dance has had an uneasy and anxious passage through modernity.